Gay Priests to Pope: Don't Blame Us for Sexual Abuse

Pope Francis

An association of gay Catholic priests in the Netherlands has written a letter to Pope Francis objecting to his statement that gay people are not welcome in the clergy and the implication that they are responsible for the clergy sex abuse crisis.

The letter from the Working Group of Catholic Gay Pastors is dated last October but is just being released publicly today. It mentions a document the pope issued in 2016 that reiterates the church’s ban on gay priests — even though there are many gay priests despite that policy.

“It is a continuation of the policy adopted by your two predecessors to prevent gay men from being ordained as priests,” the letter reads. “Although the document states that the Church deeply respects the persons in question, it also makes the arbitrary and unfounded statement that: ‘Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating appropriately to both men and women.’ … In May [2018] various news media reported that during a meeting at the Italian Bishops' Conference, you strongly supported the banning of homosexual candidates for the priesthood. We now wish to inform you that, as members of the Working Group, we are deeply unhappy with this vision and this policy concerning homosexuality and the priesthood.”

The group notes that there are many gay men serving as priests, and they function as well or poorly as heterosexual priests do. Those who accept and understand their sexuality do not cause problems, the letter says, but those who “deny, disown or suppress” it do. The church expects priests to adhere to their vow of celibacy, no matter their orientation.

On the sexual abuse scandal, the letter reads, “We have the distinct impression that the Vatican and the Congregation for the Clergy and perhaps even you yourself, tend to suggest that those priests who are openly gay are the ones responsible for the sexual abuse of children and minors. We disagree with this. We believe that the current major crisis with respect to this context is primarily the result of the disapproval, suppression, denial and the poor integration of sexuality, and especially homosexuality, on the part of many individual priests and within our Church as a whole.”

Some right-wing commentators, such as Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, have indeed blamed gay priests for sexual abuse of minors. And the pope himself has suggested that gay priests may be more likely than straight ones to break their vows, leading LGBTQ advocates to worry that he would indeed blame them for the abuse crisis. This is a far cry from Francis’s 2013 statement about gay priests, when he famously said, “Who am I to judge?”

The letter is being released ahead of a Vatican meeting with world bishops to discuss clergy sexual abuse. It begins next week. Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which works for LGBTQ equality in the church, said he does not know of any other group of gay priests anywhere in the world that has taken such an action.

The release of the letter also comes at the same time as the publication of a book, In the Closet of the Vatican, that asserts that 80 percent of priests working within the Vatican are gay. The book, by French journalist Frédéric Martel, is being published in eight countries and seeks to expose what publisher Bloomsbury calls “corruption and hypocrisy at the heart of the Vatican,” The Guardian reports.

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